In Her Father’s Eyes: A Child­hood Extin­guished by the Holocaust

Béla Weich­herz; Daniel H. Mag­ilow, trans. and ed.
  • Review
By – September 13, 2011

In Her Father’s Eyes is a note­book start­ed in 1929 by Béla Weich­hertz when his daugh­ter, Kit­ty, was born. Ini­tial­ly, it was a diary record­ing her food intake, and her phys­i­cal, cog­ni­tive, and psy­cho­log­i­cal devel­op­ments and behav­ior at home and in school. On August 26, 1939, the note­book changed into a mem­oir of recent polit­i­cal events and their impact on the fam­i­ly. They lost their home and Béla his work. Kit­ty was expelled from pub­lic school and enrolled in Jew­ish school. Yet, spo­rad­i­cal­ly, the father con­tin­ued to refer to Kitty’s intel­lec­tu­al progress and behav­ioral prob­lems, includ­ing her bud­ding fem­i­nin­i­ty, which he crit­i­cized as immod­est behav­ior. The last date men­tioned in the book is May 15, 1942. By then, trans­ports had begun, and Béla’s hope was that if tak­en, he would leave with his family. 

The editor’s intro­duc­tion is gen­er­al­ly help­ful but con­tains sev­er­al errors. Mag­ilow claims that the note­book rep­re­sents the fam­i­ly life of the Weich­hertzes. Actu­al­ly, the diary is obscure about per­son­al rela­tion­ships with­in the Weich­hertz fam­i­ly; there are a few details about Kitty’s rela­tions with her par­ents but none about the par­ents’ interactions. 

He also claims that most Holo­caust diaries and mem­oirs tend­ed to ide­al­ize fam­i­ly life and mem­bers, unlike this note­book. In fact, Holo­caust diaries are gen­er­al­ly char­ac­ter­ized by unusu­al open­ness and hon­esty about self, fam­i­ly, and oth­er Jews. 

Final­ly, Mag­ilow thinks that Kitty’s weak Jew­ish iden­ti­ty was shaped by the dis­crim­i­na­tion to which she was sub­ject­ed. In fact, her Jew­ish iden­ti­ty start­ed to inten­si­fy when she was forced to attend a Jew­ish school and learned Hebrew. After­word, index, intro­duc­tion, photographs.

Bat­she­va Ben-Amos has two Ph.D.s, one in soci­ol­o­gy from the U. of Penn­syl­va­nia, the oth­er in clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gy from Hah­ne­mann University/​Hospital. In 2007, she received a fel­low­ship for The Sum­mer Insti­tute on the Holo­caust and Jew­ish Civ­i­liza­tion at North­west­ern University.

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